Claims totalling $160,000 paid so far after Floyd fire

By Tony Parra

Payments have been dispersed for $160,000 in claims to landowners, according to Cannon Air Force Base officials, in connection with the Nov. 30 Floyd fire that wiped out more than 27,000 acres.

The cause of the fire, which began on the Melrose Bombing Range, still has not been determined, according to CAFB Staff Sgt. Craig Seals.

Seals said four claims have been filed since the fire and payments have been given out totaling $160,000.

“The incident is still under investigation,” Seals said on Thursday.

Leon Autrey is among Floyd landowners victimized by the fire who is trying to stop erosion. Autrey said he had manure and cotton-gin trash placed on his damaged land last week.
“We’ve got to pray for rain,” Autrey said. “If it doesn’t rain, this (erosion) could be ongoing and really hurt.”

Autrey said he had range land and Conservation Reserve Program land damaged by the fire.

Joe Whitehead, a district conservationist from Portales, said one field just west of Floyd was coated with two tons of cotton-gin trash and 10 to 11 tons of manure. Whitehead said landowners are getting manure from area dairies and cotton-gin trash from Maple, Texas.

Whitehead said conservation specialists, Roosevelt County extension agents, CAFB officials and landowners discussed ideas for stopping erosion in a mid-December meeting.

“The point of the meeting was to brainstorm and figure out solutions to stop soil erosion,” Whitehead said. Whitehead said since then conservation specialists have met with landowners on an individual basis to see how they could help.

Autrey said he has not yet filed a claim with Cannon Air Force Base. CAFB officials said the deadline is in late November of 2007.

Autrey said the soil erosion on his land may continue for another five or 10 years. He said there should be a way to leave some cases open until a final determination of the damage has been done.

“I can’t afford to pay for all of this to be done by myself,” Autrey said. “I know they’re (CAFB officials) doing their jobs to the best of their ability.”

The weather since the fire has not been helpful for landowners seeking to stop erosion. Dry, windy and sunny weather has hurt the exposed land.

“We have not had any rain so far,” Whitehead said. “We’ve got to have moisture. We’ve had warm weather and winds drain the moisture out of the land.”